Our story begins when Mike Shinoda sits down to write, and comes up with a song called ‘Welcome’. He writes the verses, sings the hook, produces the beat, lays it all down and then plays it back. For the first time in eight years the product of his session is not a Linkin Park song. He knows it right away. ‘Welcome’is an outsiders anthem, directly from the mouth of a mixed race, who grew up in the San Fernando valley listening to nothing but rap music, before being swept off to suburbia where he didn’t identify with the white kids, but was unable to even speak the language of the Japanese. It’s confident, a celebration of the misfits, who in this Internet generation can always find someone to connect to. He really wants this song to remain his own.
“If I bring in a demo and play it for everybody else, I add their input and tweak their parts or just change the song.” he says over the phone from L.A. “Because sometimes I play it for them and they say ‘Oh, I’d love to hear it like this…’ And I make the changes. I loved it the way it was and because it had just popped out and was – in my mind – finished, it just felt like the right timing to put it out.”
It’s been ten years now since Shinoda last ventured outside of the band that he founded with two friends back in high school, later evolving into one of the biggest on the planet. Back in 2005 Linkin Park were coming off the back of two iconic records, Hybrid Theory and Meteora, and Shinoda felt that their sound had become pigeonholed. “In my mind, making songs too far outside of that wasn’t part of the deal,” he recalls. “I didn’t think Linkin Park could do that, so I made that stuff and I called it Fort Minor. I made it my own separate thing.” The Fort Minor project was contained to just one album, The Rising Tied, which was executive produced by Jay-Z who also featured on the intro, and a DJ Green Lantern-hosted mixtape We Major. It tied together Mike’s solo output as a longtime hip-hop head, producer, MC and painter, and had him collaborating with the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Ghostface Killah, John Legend, Black Thought, Commonand San Fernando Valley crew Styles Of Beyond (who were signed to his Machine Shop Records imprint). The project was neatly wedged between Linkin Park albums, and when the band reconnected for album number three, 2007’s Minutes To Midnight, their style evolved again and Fort Minor was left on the back-burner.